Jordan heads into elections by September after parliament dissolution

Sunday 29/05/2016
Mulki held senior posts in successive administrations

AMMAN - Jordan is heading into parliamentary elections by September, after King Abdullah II dissolved the current legislature.

The monarch also appointed a new prime minister, Hani Mulki, who will oversee preparations for new elections.

Political analyst Bassam Badareen said Monday that the appointment of Mulki, a prominent economist, signals that "the king wants to see a government that puts the economy as a first priority."

Jordan's monarch dissolved parliament on Sunday, paving the way for new elections within four months, as required by the constitution. He also appointed Mulki in place of Abdullah Ensour, who resigned after more than three years as prime minister.

Mulki has held senior government posts in successive administrations. Under the constitution, the election must now be held within four months.

"The kingdom faces grave economic difficulties due to the volatile situation in this region, which has had an adverse impact on growth levels," Abdullah said in a letter appointing Mulki.

"Therefore we have to take exceptional and innovative measures that help us overcome these challenges and obstacles." Jordan is struggling to cope with at least 1.2 million Syrian refugees who have fled the conflict in their country.

The king also told Mulki he hoped the election would pave the way for a prime minister emerging from a parliamentary majority rather than one handpicked by the monarch, a main plank of the reformist agenda of a mix of Islamist and tribal figures.

Jordan traditionally votes according to tribal and family allegiances but parliament amended the electoral laws in March in a move government sources and political analysts say will lead to more candidates from political parties vying for votes.

The analysts say the tribal lawmakers who dominated the last parliament had tried to resist changes which might undermine their influence, under a system that still favours sparsely populated tribal areas which benefit most from state patronage.

Jordan's main political opposition comes from the Muslim Brotherhood movement but it faces increasing legal curbs on its activities, leaving mostly pro-monarchy parties and some independent Islamists and politicians to compete in these elections, the political analysts say.

The Brotherhood, wants sweeping political reforms but stops short of demanding the overthrow of the monarchy in Jordan.

Its political arm in Jordan, the Islamic Action Front, represents many disenfranchised Jordanians of Palestinian origin, who are in the majority in the population of seven million and live mostly in urban areas.

Analysts say it could be difficult for the Brotherhood, which has operated legally in Jordan for decades, to participate in the election after the authorities closed many of its offices and encouraged a splinter group to legally challenge the main movement's licence to operate.

Western diplomats and independent politicians say the absence of the group, which has strong grassroots support in urban centres, could undermine the legitimacy of the election.

Western donors have pushed Jordan's authorities to widen political representation to stem radicalisation among alienated and unemployed young people in poor overcrowded areas. Hundreds of them have already joined jihadists in Syria and Iraq.